RECENT CONCERTS AND EVENTS
The Larry Coryell Trio
Last month I presented a feature on renowned guitarist Larry Coryell, which included background information for newcomers, reviews of his excellent new trio recordings, Power Trio Live In Chicago (Highnote) and Tricycles (currently available only as a German import) and highlights of an interview with Coryell. After all that buildup, the question becomes whether he lived up to his reputation. As an aside, I will say that over the years, I have seen some musicians for whom I had high expectations utterly let me down, while being bowled over by others when I was expecting adequacy at best. Well, in short, Coryell not only met but exceeded my expectations. As noted here last month, he and his superb trio, consisting of bassist Mark Egan and drummer Paul Wertico, performed at Big Rock Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, October 5 and again the following night at the Jazz Factory.
Coryell showcased his improvisational skills with three performances of the classic Milt Jackson song "Bags Groove," without ever sacrificing spontaneity or threatening listeners with boredom. The first performance was as guest artist with the University of Louisville's Jazz Ensemble I, under the direction of John La Barbera. In this context, Coryell, Wertico and Egan epitomized the virtues of swing and restraint. Later that afternoon, with the addition of Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone (on loan from Jazz Ensemble I), the trio gave a harder edge to this bluesy piece. The following night, left to its own devices, the trio offered a sparkling reinterpretation with a gutbucket approach that evoked classic South Side Chicago blues. Hearing these three performances, as well as listening again to the performance of this piece on Power Trio Live In Chicago made me reflect on the fans who, over the years, have made unofficial recordings of everyone from Charlie Parker to the Grateful Dead and who in the process have left a legacy of otherwise-unavailable music for the generations. Each performance was unique and each reflected the artistry of a consummate jazz improviser.
Another example of the ongoing reinterpretation and sense of adventure which Coryell brings to his art was evidenced in two renditions of Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' On Sunset." At Big Rock, this piece began in a mellow and laidback fashion, in tune with the beautiful atmosphere of an early autumn Sunday afternoon in the park. Coryell, Egan and Wertico then took the piece to a different level altogether, with an increase in volume and a style that owed more to Jimi Hendrix than to Montgomery, before returning to the gentler stylings of the song's composer. The following night at the club, the spirit of Jimi must have been visiting somebody else, as Coryell and company kept to a more straight ahead rendition. These two performances, like the three of "Bags Groove" again show that the renditions on Power Trio Live In Chicago are like snapshots of an evolutionary process, with each being beautiful in its own right, while not fully conveying the entire process when seen individually.
Briefly, other highlights of the Big Rock concert included "Spaces Revisited," which provided a showcase for Wertico and the Egan composition "Tricycles." At the Jazz Factory, with two full sets, Coryell had the opportunity to shine on solo acoustic renditions of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" and "Something." Egan and Wertico rejoined the "unplugged" Coryell for a gently swaying rendition of Luis Bonfa's "Theme from Black Orpheus," during which Coryell went from elegant chording to a beautifully restrained single string solo. The second set included interpretations of two Thelonious Monk compositions, "Round Midnight" and "Trinkle Tinkle." Larry's brother Jim, a Louisville resident and my colleague on the Louisville Jazz society, joined in on guitar for the encore, a seriously swinging rendition of Miles Davis' classic "All Blues." Throughout the evening, Larry reminisced about the spirit of the 60's and his enjoyment of feeling some of that spirit during his stay in our fair city. This seems to bode well for a return engagement, for which I will keep my fingers tightly crossed as they knock on wood.
I had a chance to speak briefly with Egan and Wertico. Egan is about to release a piano trio recording entitled (strangely enough) Trio, on his own Wavetone label. He described pianist Jeff Laibson as reminiscent of Keith Jarrett and noted his pleasure at playing again with long-time friend, drummer Danny Gottlieb. My own impression, upon listening to an advance copy of this CD, is that there are similarities to the late Sixties and early Seventies "outside" playing of Chick Corea, with Circle bandmates Dave Holland and Barry Altschul. Some of the pieces on this album are somewhat abstract, such as "Blizzard," while others are more cohesive, such as the melodic opener "April Remembered." Cocktail lounge music this ain't, but for listeners who appreciate a more challenging approach to the piano trio concept, this is an album worth seeking out. Check www.wavetone.com for further information on this, as well as reissues of some of the Egan/Gottlieb Elements recordings, among others.
Wertico is now based outside of Chicago, teaching at Roosevelt and Northwestern. He is preparing to release a recording on Chicago's A440 Music label featuring the compositions and keyboards of his wife, Barbara Wertico and the guitar talents of John Moulder, with whom he has previously recorded, as well as bass by Eric Hochberg. In addition to his former work with Pat Metheny, Wertico has toured Europe with the Paul Winter Consort in addition to backing singer Kurt Elling and many other top jazz performers. He expressed the hope that his students could have a chance to do as he has done, making a living playing music. For those who may wonder why he left the high profile Metheny group, he said that once he became a father, he did not want to be on the road as much and so shifted gears to allow for more family time.
Speaking of expectations, last month I mentioned that there were going to be back-to-back performances of jazz pianist Monty Alexander at the Jazz Factory and Garaj Mahal guitarist Fareed Haque, bassist Kai Eckhardt and others) at Uncle Pleasant's. As the fates would have it, Monty Alexander's trio, which included bassist Hassan Shakur and drummer Robert Thomas Jr. (a percussionist with Weather Report "back in the day") captivated me with the players' daring interplay and enthusiasm. Highlights of their first set included an Alexander original, "Hope" and n "Hope," the trio moved from a slow introductory section to a midtempo interlude, back to a slow movement and concluded with a reggae-flavored ending evoking Alexander's Jamaican background. Shakur was featured on a bowed bass solo. The classic ballad, "Angel Eyes" offered Shakur a chance to shine with a pizzicato solo, followed by an Alexander solo, which in turn was followed by a Shakur arco solo. Drummer Thomas was eloquent throughout the performance, demonstrating a sensitive sense of dynamics as well as dexterity with sticks, brushes and bare hands. Alexander radiated good humor in his spoken introductions to the songs as well as in his playing. He closed his first set with the standard "You're Just Too Beautiful for Words," which he said he learned from Freddie Cole. He offered the audience a pleasant surprise when he added singing to his impressive pianistics. Thus, it was with some reluctance that I took my leave to head over to see Garaj Mahal. Unfortunately, they were still in transit and in Indiana when I arrived and did not show up until 10:30 p.m., at which point they began to set up their equipment. As one with a day job, I decided that discretion was, indeed, the better part of valor and I called it a night. I can only hope they will be able to return to Louisville with a performance time more accessible to those of us who must get up in the morning.
Although I was psyched for the return of Astral Project to Louisville, deadlines at my day job, coupled with malfunctioning computer and a moribund printer which I had to replace, conspired against me. I worked late and arrived at the Jazz factory just in time to hear the end of one song, a typically humorous and slightly manic rap by drummer Johnny Vidocovich and, at least, one long piece which seemed to wed the free explorations of Ornette Coleman with the humor and down-home ambiance of the band's New Orleans home. The silver lining is that the band and Jazz Factory entrepreneur hope to work out a return engagement for a weekend rather than a Thursday night.
A delightful evening of "Loud Jazz" was on tap at The Dame, in downtown Lexington. John Scofield brought his "Uberjam Band" to this venue and as per the title of his 1988 CD Loud Jazz, featured a heavy backbeat, serious amplification and (to borrow a Miles Davis album title) a sense of "Big Fun." Jazz purists would no doubt be put off by the use of loops and samples, provided by second guitarist Avi Bortnick, as well as the unrelentingly funky drumming of Adam Deitch. Relative newcomer Mark Kelley provided chest-thumping LOW bass work. As expected, most of the 110-minute concert featured material from the Uberjam album and the more recent recording, Up All Night. "Freakin' Disco" from Up All Night, was introduced by Scofield with the comment that he used to hate disco music. However, on this number, Deitch offered enough variation on the mechanical disco drumming of the Seventies to keep Sco on his feet and playing like he meant it. One new number, as yet unnamed, featured Botnick playing music triggered by (leave now, ye of faint heart) his kid brother's Gameboy. Yes. And it worked! For those who may not have been following Sco's work closely, he has been touring with this band, hitting lots of rock clubs and the rock festival summer circuit, while also maintaining street cred in the jazz world by his ongoing project Scolohofo (with former bandmate Joe Lovano, bassist
Dave Holland and drummer Al Foster). Additionally, as this is written, he is planning a tour of Europe with a superb progressive mainstream trio consisting of himself, electric bassist and composer Steve Swallow and his former quartet drummer Bill Stewart. While The Dame is not exclusively a jazz club, it is an enjoyable venue which offers a home to a variety of mostly rock-oriented acts, but also brought in the Charlie Hunter Trio earlier this year
The deadline month closed out with a return to Louisville of guitarist John Stowell, performing with the Jeff Sherman trio at the Jazz Factory. As he noted in a between-set conversation, when he performs compositions by other people, he looks for "obscure tunes that I like - we don't need another "Stella By Starlight.'" Examples of this approach included second-set opener, Henry Mancini's "Dreamsville." While he covered the often-performed Dave Brubeck standard, "In Your Own Sweet Way," he did so by rearranging it as a waltz. A duet segment between Stowell and Sherman on this number reminded me of some of the early Les Paul duet overdubs. Other highlights included some original compositions by Stowell, which he did not explicitly name, but which enabled him to show off his subtle virtuosity. The Billy Strayhorn work "Isfahan" was another delight. Stowell seems, in a restrained and jazzlike way, to embody some sense of the punk DIY ethic, preferring to work with small labels owned by artists, booking his own gigs and so forth. While it is not a road to a life of ease, it enables Stowell to continue to follow his muse without artistic compromise. For further information on Stowell, including several hard-to-find recordings, please surf to www.johnstowell.com.
JAZZ LOSES GROUND ON WFPK
Curiously, after the Fall Fundraising Drive, featuring numerous pitches for jazz, WFPK has cut back its jazz programming significantly. After almost a quarter century of nightly jazz programming, there is now no jazz on Thursdays and nine hours of jazz on Friday night into early Saturday morning has been reduced to one hour. Furthermore, three hours of eclectic live concert programming, "Mountain Stage" (two hours) and "E-town" (one hour) have been eliminated in favor of more of the same "Adult Alternative" pop CD cuts which are already played to death. While neither "Mountain Stage" nor "E-town" were "jazz" shows per se, they featured in-concert performances which ranged stylistically from bluegrass to blues to jazz to rock and folk and which included jazz performers such as John Scofield, Charlie Hunter and Bob Thompson (the house pianist for Mountain Stage) among others. "E-town" is supposed to return around the first of the year, but this does not make up for the loss of programming currently available to public radio listeners outside of Louisville. As this is written, a show featuring avant-garde jazz guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer and the jamband of Derek Trucks (whose latest album is heavily jazz-influenced) is missing in action for Louisvillians.
The only bright spot in this otherwise gloomy picture is the new "Late Set at the Jazz Factory," as previewed in this column last month. This will air every Friday night at 11 p.m. on WFPK, 91.9 FM. If you think jazz should reclaim its rightful spot on Louisville public radio, contact Public Radio Partnership's CEO, former nightly jazz host Gerry Weston, at firstname.lastname@example.org and WFPK's program director Dan Reed at email@example.com.
On The Horizon
As previously noted here, The Jazz Factory will present the Avishai Cohen Quartet on Friday and Saturday, October 31 and November 1. Immediately preceding his appearance will be a Louisville Jazz Society-sponsored evening with noted trumpeter Warren Vache. While Cohen is best known for his work with Chick Corea in the late 90's, he has been leading a variety of groups over the past few years. . He has recently formed his own CD label, Razdaz, and has just released his first recording on that label, Lyla. This CD presents a potpourri of styles from straight ahead to fusion. His touring group includes saxophonist Yosvany Terry from the CD, as well as pianist Sam bar-Sheshet, of Zach Brock and the Coffee Achievers. On Saturday, November 15, San Francisco organist Jon Hammond will appear. The end of the month will feature the return of homeboy Don Braden, whose performance at this past summer's Aebersold jazz camp concert was a highlight. The previously announced tentative gig of New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard is now "penciled in" for sometime after the first of the year. The Jazz Factory is located at 815 W. Main Street in the Glassworks complex (web: www.jazzfactory.us [not ."com"]; phone: 992-3242. Be sure to check for other artists being booked.
The Seelbach Jazz Bar, presented by Dick Sisto, continues to present excellent music Thursdays and Fridays 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with Dick Sisto and Tyrone Wheeler, with the following guests scheduled for the month of October on Fridays and Saturdays: October 31 and November 1, Flugelhornist James Lewis; November 7-8, Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis; November 14, Tenor saxophonist Tim Whalen; November 15, the Mike Tracy Quartet; November 21-22, Guitarist Dan Faehnle and Percussive Arts Society Jam Session; and November 28-29, the return of saxophonist Gene Walker.
The Rudyard Kipling will feature the return of jazz fusion group Tunnels, featuring former Brand X bassist Percy Jones, on Thursday, October 23, this time as a double bill with accomplished singer Sarah Pillow. Pillow has recently released a 2-CD set entitled Remixes, consisting of one disk of traditional arrangements of European classical songs from centuries past and one disk of the same songs as re-imagined in a fusion context and which includes members of Tunnels. This should prove to be a most intriguing evening. Due to the constraints of deadlines, a review must await the next issue. However, in a telephone interview, bandleader Marc Wagnon (MIDI-vibes and other instruments) noted that since the group's regular drummer Frank Katz got busy with other projects, old friend Lance Carter's drumming "gives a different flavor to the band, [with] new ways to look at the music." He is married to singer Sarah Pillow and commented on how it is both "wonderful and difficult" especially regarding drawing lines between where "work starts and private life ends." He also mentioned that the format of this tour, with Tunnels opening for Pillow and Tunnels, has been changed so that now the higher energy of Tunnels will follow what he described as "more of a show" with Pillow.
Other local venues also continue to support jazz. These include the Comedy Caravan at the Mid-City Mall on Bardstown Road, home of the regular third Monday performances of the Roger Dane Jazz Orchestra. At this writing, the club has also booked the Charlie Shoemake Trio for Monday, October 27, too late for a review in this issue and not booked far enough in advance to have been previewed here last month. Club owner Tom Sobel is a long-time fan and supporter of jazz and the venue is a good place for concerts (at least for the occasional non-smoking gigs).
The Rudyard Kipling sponsors Ray Rizzo's "Open Air Transmissions" weekly jam session on Wednesdays, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Artemisia, 620 East Market Street also has a regular lineup of small jazz groups, including the Bill Barnes Trio on November 1 and 21. The Third Avenue Cafe at Third & Oak, 585-2233, will feature saxophonist Mike Tracy on Saturday, November 22 and Ron Jones the following Friday. Steam Fire & Ice, 2427 Bardstown Road and Clifton's Pizza, 2230 Frankfort Avenue also provide jazz listeners with additional opportunities.
As a service to jazz fans, the Louisville Jazz Society (LJS) maintains an e-mail mailing list which sends out announcements of local jazz events and it is not limited to LJS members. If you wish to be added, send your e-mail address to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIVE JAZZ IN THE AREA
The Blue Wisp (318 East 8th St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-241-WISP; www.bluewispjazzclub.com), in addition to its nightly schedule, will focus on the best of local and regional jazz during November, as will The Jazz Kitchen (5377 N College Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46220; phone: 317-253-4900; www.thejazzkitchen.com). It might be worthwhile to check their sites for any concert announcements too late for this month's column.
HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU
I am humbled by the positive feedback I have received from various musicians and I very much appreciate their kind words. Whether your words are kind or otherwise, let me know what you think. You can e-mail me at email@example.com. And remember, support jazz on the radio and in the clubs and concert halls. Period.